Legislature Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bills

California Legislature OKs SB 310, ‘The Right to a Jury of Your Peers’

(From Press Release – Senator Nancy Skinner) – The California Legislature today approved Senate Bill 310, also known as “The Right to a Jury of Your Peers,” by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. SB 310 allows people with a prior felony conviction to serve on juries in California for the first time.

“SB 310 will ensure that Californians can be tried by a true jury of their peers,” Sen. Skinner said. “Currently, 30% of African-American men living in California are denied the basic civil right to serve on a jury. SB 310 will right that wrong.”

The state Assembly approved SB 310 on a 47-26 vote, and the Senate gave its final OK on a 29-10 vote. The bill now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom for consideration.

Juries are the backbone of our justice system — the concept that people can have their cases heard by their peers — is a primary source of our justice system’s legitimacy. But current California law excludes from jury service people who may have had a graffiti conviction when they were 18 or a marijuana conviction from high school.

Over 20 states allow people with prior felony convictions to serve on a jury. Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and Oregon allow people to serve without restrictions. Under SB 310, a person with a prior felony conviction will be eligible to serve on a jury, unless the person is on parole or probation, or a registered sex offender for a felony conviction. With this change to California’s current law, only Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma will still have lifetime bans for people with felony convictions from ever serving on a jury.

SB 310 does not interfere with the right of prosecutors, public defenders, and judges to reject jurors based on their assessment of suitability. It also does not prohibit the use of a preemptory challenge to remove a prospective juror from the jury pool.

“It’s time for California to join with other forward-thinking states and allow people with prior felony convictions to serve on juries,” Skinner added. “A former conviction should not alone forfeit a person’s right to engage in the fair and public deliberations at the heart of our judicial process.”

Legislature Approves Measure To Apply Prop 57 to Incarcerated Youth Under 26

(From Press Release – Assemblymember Stone) – The Legislature has approved AB 965 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D- Monterey Bay) which allows incarcerated individuals who were under the age of 26 at the time of their offense to benefit from the opportunities provided under Proposition 57.

“Proposition 57 expanded credit earning opportunities so that incarcerated people could earn time off their parole dates by working toward rehabilitation. Unfortunately people with youthful parole hearing dates have been excluded,” said Stone. “By allowing credits to be applied to youth offender parole hearing dates the state will incentivize individuals to take advantage of programs that will not only reduce the time to their parole hearing date, but prepare them to succeed beyond their incarceration.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation only allows credits earned under Proposition 57 to be applied to the parole hearing date that a person was initially sentenced with, and will not allow credits to be applied to youthful parole hearing dates. Therefore, youth offenders are not incentivized to participate in rehabilitative programs with the potential of going home early. For example, if someone under the age of 26 is sentenced to 100 years, they will be eligible for a youthful parole hearing after serving 25 years. However, they cannot apply their credits towards the youthful parole hearing date, but can only apply it to the original 100 year sentence.

“AB 965 will present hope and an incentive for people to invest the time and work necessary to be successful members of society. It will help reduce our prison population and reunite families while improving the safety of the institution and the community overall,” said Taina Vargas – Edmond, Co- Founder and Executive Director of Initiate Justice, a cosponsor of the measure.

The Governor has until October 13 to sign the measure.

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